YWCA Halifax was founded in 1874 as a residence for 42 young women and girls. By 1899 the organization had purchased its own premises on Hollis Street and opened a new residence on the corner of Oxford and College. Activities focused on the needs of women in the workforce—like those working in the Halifax’s cotton mills.
Important Milestones in Our Development:
1919 – Summer camps were established in both Hubbards and Wallace for young business women and students.
1922 – YWCA Halifax established physical education programs for girls prior to it being taught in Halifax schools.
1920s – Co-founded “Community Chest”—a precursor of today’s Metro United Way.
1931 – A new YWCA Halifax building was developed on Barrington Street by a group of tenacious women who were undaunted by the great depression. During WWII the building housed an anti-aircraft gun on its roof.
1939-1945 – Joycliffe, a YWCA Halifax summer campsite was utilized by military personnel on leave. For many war brides immigrating through Pier 21, the organization became a place of solace after a long sea journey, and before their departure for their trip across the province to their new home.
YWCA Halifax was well established when it came time to join the war effort. With a gun installation on its roof, the building was an easy to spot beacon for service personnel during World War II. In fact, the organization’s history reports that 450,000 military personnel were housed, entertained or helped by the YWCA Halifax between 1939 and 1945.
After the war, the YWCA Halifax’s Traveler’s Aid branch was present to meet war brides and immigrants at Pier 21.
YWCA Halifax conductresses accompanied new arrivals on the trains to their assorted destinations, offering invaluable companionship and advice. Many women traveling alone were comforted and protected by a YWCA member.
1963 – In collaboration with the Junior League, the YWCA Halifax established the first licensed childcare service in Halifax.
1965 – A pool was added to the Barrington Street building, in response to limited municipal swimming facilities for women and their children.
1972 – A weight studio was built to accommodate and expand fitness opportunities for women.
1980s – The Centre for Computer Studies was established to prepare women for IT developments that were sweeping across the workforce.
1990s – The late nineties brought the establishment of an on-site health clinic, and new programming for the pool – enhancing the commitment to women’s wellness throughout the life cycle.
2003 – The YWCA Halifax began an ambitious journey that would ignite the most dramatic period of change experienced by the organization in 75 years.
2004 – The organization issued a request for proposals for the redevelopment, lease, or sale of the building to public, private, and non-profit organizations. In August 2005, an agreement of purchase and sale was confirmed.
2005 – The YWCA Halifax doubled the areas of service from fitness, residence and childcare to include the delivery of employment, health promotion and youth programs. During this time it was recognized that the Barrington Street building was underutilized and increasingly a drain on the financial health of the organization. Late in the year, the sale of Barrington Street was completed. The YWCA childcare centre moved to Fort Massey United Church, and YWCA administrative offices were moved to Bayer’s Road Shopping Centre.
Through the renewal planning process, programs and services were measured against the guiding principles and fit with a mission. As a result, service to women doubled. 2005 marked a new beginning for YWCA Halifax Housing programs, as the Women in Supported Housing Program (WISH) was launched. The program has been recognized as a national best practice by CMHC.
2008 – The YWCA Halifax leases space in the new building erected on the old Barrington Street site. Administrative offices, programs, and childcare are all under one roof again. After returning to Barrington Street, YWCA programs grew exponentially to better serve families, women, and young women at critical turning points in their lives.
2012 – YWCA Halifax revisits its strategic plan and adapts current program focus areas. Since 2005, the organization has more than quadrupled the number of women and families served, and tripled the operating budget. The organization joins forces with Supportive Housing for Young Mothers (SHYM), a likeminded organization, and broke ground in the Spryfield building a new Child Care and Program Centre, which opened in 2012.
2013/14 – The YWCA Halifax purchased ten condos across the HRM with funding through HPS and CNHC and initiated the Women In Supportive Housing (WISH) program.
2016 – YWCA Halifax began engagement with provincial partners to lead an inter-jurisdictional coalition to prevent and eliminate the trafficking and sexual exploitation of primarily young women in Nova Scotia through the Nova Scotia Trafficking Elimination Partnership (NSTEP). The YWCA Halifax also partnered with Alice Housing, The Elizabeth Fry Society and The Marguerite Centre to develop a three-year project entitled Home For Good: Advancing Women’s Housing Through Systems Change that will work to address the systemic nature of women’s housing instability.